The singer says people find her marriage“confusing” but it is she who seems befuddled, like many millennial women who no longer want to be “just” a wife and mother, yet still yearn for the security of a matrimonial contract.
You don’t have to care for the self-defined “one of the biggest feminists” Miley Cyrus, or her Hunger Games actor husband Liam Hemsworth, to find her comments about their “modern” marriage in the latest edition of Elle fascinating, as you watch Miley (“I am such an overthinker”) stutteringly square her regurgitated female empowerment mantras with an institution she disparages as anachronistic.
“My relationship is unique. And I don’t know that I would ever publicly allow people in there because it’s so complex, and modern, and new that I don’t think we’re in a place where people would get it.”
This sets the tone. In the seven months Miley has been married, she has reinvented an institution that has been evolving since pre-history. Squares living in patriarchal nuclear families in picket-fence suburbs could never understand.
So people really think that I’m at home in a f**king apron cooking dinner?
So housekeeping is out.
We’re expected to keep the planet populated… If you don’t want children, people feel sorry for you, like you’re a cold, heartless bitch who’s not capable of love.
I have a new song, ‘Never Be Me’, and the chorus says, ‘If you’re looking for faithful, that’ll never be me. If you’re looking for stable, that’ll never be me. If you’re looking for someone that’ll be all that you need, that’s never going to be me.’
I’m in a hetero relationship, but I still am very sexually attracted to women. People become vegetarian for health reasons, but bacon is still f**king good.
But bisexuality is in.
I definitely don’t fit into a stereotypical wife role. I don’t even like that word.
That much is clear.
So to summarize, Miley will not cook, clean, start a family, stay faithful, call herself a wife, and might actually be more gay than straight. Though she did, against the grain, take her husband’s name.
But beyond that, what is her practical role in the marriage? That takes up one word in the interview, which is “partnership.”Which – deducing from the above – suggests the sort of relationship where neither of the two parties lead or owe each other anything, but get to enjoy world-spanning holidays, Miley’s cherished weed and cocktails, and possibly unconventional sex arrangements.
All sounds pleasurable, at least from a distance, but leaves the more interesting question of, why call it a marriage in the first place if it has none of the formal attributes?
It’s easiest to say for the white dress, the party and the attention on which Miley so nakedly feasts.
But I would hypothesize that both for this artist, and the ordinary women who have delivered the same platitudes verbatim about their own “unique” relationships, there is something more to it.
Although they may struggle to picture themselves as “the wife,” they covet both the formal trappings and status of the official relationship, the financial considerations (which for Cyrus are a non-factor) and most importantly the psychological comfort of tying down a desirable partner in your physical prime.
But would Miley admit that? Here is another quote from the same interview.
“My record is called She Is Miley Cyrus. ‘She’ does not represent a gender. She is not just a woman. ‘She’ doesn’t refer to a vagina. She is a force of nature. She is power. She can be anything you want to be, therefore, she is everything. She is the super she. She is the she-ro. She is the She-E-O.”
Does a “super she” who speaks about herself in the third person require a husband in her life?
Yet, our most prominent pop culture feminists do in fact enter matrimony. And not with some amorphous new-age “partners,” but quite conventional male archetypes. Beyoncé is married to Jay-Z, Emma Watson is reportedly dating a tech CEO, Serena Williams is wedded to one, Meghan Markle’s husband is literally a prince. For all her historic aspirations and rhetoric, Hillary Clinton said her vows to Bill and stuck through all of his disempowering shenanigans.
So why are all these women always talking about independence, and self-reliance, and denigrating conventional marriages? Are they as muddled as the impressionables to whom they serve as heroes, or are they hypocrites who get to talk about independence in interviews, then go back to their wealthy, tall, famous husbands at the end of the day.
This is not a sanctimonious defense of tradition – I myself am not married to my partner, with whom I am raising our child.
But I don’t see the value of mocking old-fashioned relationships – those in which the man earns more money, the woman prepares the Sunday roast, or the couple wants to bring children into the world, Miley’s fears of global warming be damned. What exactly is so heroic and liberating about what she is saying? She rails against being the woman in a “cigarette commercial from the ’50s” and the lyrics of ‘Stand by your Man’, but that song was written in 1968, while the Marlboro Man has been banned from TV for decades.
That emancipation battle has long been won, but what remains is a strident and insincere creed that does not serve well many women, perhaps the majority. And bewilders many of their male partners, who are unsure of their role, or whether to take women at their word.
As for Miley herself, my prediction is that when and if she escapes an adoration-filled adolescence extended by her fame, discovers her maternal instincts, and grows weary of hotel room beds, the bourgeois appeals of a homestead may grow on her. Whether Liam survives the matrimonial trials, is a dicier question.